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Last minute semi-final heartache

Bridgend 22 Carmarthen Quins 20

Quins heartache : Bridgend celebrate reaching the Millennium Stadium
Quins heartache : Bridgend celebrate reaching the Millennium Stadium

CARMARTHEN saw the final remnants of what had at one stage looked like being a promising season disappear, as countless mistakes and spurned chances led to last minute woe.

Despite starting the game with several injuries, the Quins headed into the game as favourites having dispatched Bridgend on previous occasions and also because of the Ravens poor league position.

However the Quins couldn’t put their advantage into action as knock-on’s, poor scrummaging and misplaced passes had their say on the outcome.

The early minutes saw both sides moving the ball and an interesting afternoon was expected. After four minutes a powerful Quins lineout catch and drive saw Rory Gallagher crash over for a try, which was awarded by the referee to the clear bemusement of both the Bridgend players and spectators, as the ball had seemed some distance short of the line. The strong wind gave Craig Evans no chance with the conversion, but still the Quins had made a fast, positive start.

Bridgend missed two chances to go into the lead, with Owen Howe both of his penalties wide in almost impossible conditions, but the Ravens did eventually draw level as they utilised their set-piece dominance to good effect. From a scrum in the Quins twenty-two, scrum-half Chris Williams was able to gallop down the blindside to cross for his side.

With the wind behind them and the set piece thriving Bridgend started to take the game to the Quins and were enjoying vast amounts of possession in the Carmarthen twenty-two. From this spell of possession, more strong forward play, coupled with weak defence, allowed flanker Adam O’Driscoll to race over for his side’s second which was converted by fullback Owen Howe.

With fighting breaking out on a few occasions both captains received a warning in what was becoming a scrappy game, largely owing to the Quins inability to hold onto passes when good opportunities were presented. Rory Gallacher was shown a yellow card with 30 minutes on the clock but it didn’t provide any further points in the half for Bridgend and instead seemed to spur on the Quins.

With the wind clearly playing on his mind Owen Howe turned down two good opportunities to kick for goal from penalties, instead going for the corner, which proved fruitless at a dysfunctional lineout.

With Bridgend seemingly reeling despite the man advantage Carmarthen turned the screw, with winger Chris Banfield crossing for an unconverted try leaving the Quins trailing by two at the interval. With the strong wind behind them in the second half and with their side back to the full quota of fifteen, the Carmarthen outfit would’ve been hopeful of sealing their place in the final.

This belief would’ve been enhanced with just two minutes gone in the second half. Banfield this time turned provider as his clever run put Iolo Evans over, with Evans finally adding a conversion the Quins led 17-12

With the expectation that the Quins would now capitalise on their lead, mistakes crept into their game and chances were missed when it would have been easier to score. Carmarthen changed their half-backs with twenty minutes remaining in the hope that the error count would decrease.

This wasn’t to be as on 70 minutes the Ravens levelled matters with their third try, with hooker Ashleigh James crossing smartly. The lead didn’t last long as Carmarthen retook it thanks to a well taken, wind assisted penalty form Dan Jones.

A series of mysterious refereeing decisions left the Quins supporters seething and when another decision went against them the Ravens kick to touch gave them a throw in on the eighty minutes. They won possession and their drive put wing Tom O’Flaherty over for the telling score. The missed conversion signalled the end of a miserable afternoon for Carmarthen and a dour three months since Christmas.

Next up is another visit to the Talbot Ground when Aberavon will play hosts to the Quins on Sunday April 19 in a televised game.